Thursday, November 10, 2005


Ha! Some de-bugging will have to take place so the photos will appear on this blog the way I want...(see below)


I did promise to give an update regarding my road trip with Mike. The long and the short of it is, I was talking with my friend Mike about plans I had for driving down to the Biltmore Estate in Ashville, then seeing my sister who lives in Kentucky, and then getting over to Nashville to see one of my brothers. I'm not sure, but I think the idea occurred to me at the same time as Mike asked me where I was going with this? did I need a driving buddy? are we going on a roadtrip? What a brilliant idea!

One of the easiest ways to test a friendship is to see if it endures a road trip, they say. Well, so far, my friendship with Mike is doing fine. Our trip was really lovely. It is amazing really, how much fun it is to bare your soul to a friend who understands, with whom there is that spark of recognition. It is totally energizing!

In many ways, some of my acquaintances find our friendship odd: we are many years apart in age; our life experiences differ hugely. But because our ideals and beliefs and politics are so similar, it is easy between us.

Let's see...

After driving like mad southward down the I75, we went to Pigeon Forge in Tennessee, stopping for an afternoon at Cumberland Falls.

Coffee soon became a problem. You see, it seems that good coffee on the road is hard to find in the U.S., for those of us pathetically addicted to Tim Horton's. Not only that, but where there is coffee (weak), there is no real milk or cream. There is only packages or dispensers of powdered creamers made out of who-knows-what that taste terrible!

In Pigeon Forge, Mike was totally charmed by the southern hospitality and the accents. He didn't want to appear to be making fun of the accents, but it does seem to rub off on one rather easily and we tended to want to soften our speech into that relaxed drawl.

We did find a coffee chain with a Hawaiian name that served fabulous coffee in Pigeon Forge. A young man ahead of us in line with marvelous tattoos on his arms assured us the coffee was excellent here. When we told him we were from Canada, we found out he was from New Orleans, one of the "lucky" ones, relocated through his job after Katrina.

We visited a fortune teller--that was interesting, but frustrating. Although we could have asked questions, I was too stunned and puzzled by some of the things she said, to think of any sensible questions at the time. In hindsight, I have thought of so many questions I should have asked.

We drove in a leasurely way over the Smoky Mountains into Cherokee. We were a pair of delighted idiots: a duet of "Oh my god," all the way, every time we came around another bend, with another vista unfolding before us. The Smoky Mountains are magical.

There was quite the variety of tourists from many countries. I overhead Japanese, German, many Southeast Asian languages, French...

In Cherokee, we did a little shopping and I enjoyed some pinto beans and cornbread for lunch. We noticed again that portions of food served in restaurants are huge in the U.S.! Oh, the tendency is here in Canada too; people judge the value of the meal by quantity...

We missed our turnoff in Ashville and drove over the Eastern continental divide, before we realized where we were and turned back toward Ashville.

Monday at the Biltmore Estate was sunny, but windy and cold. Many roses were still in bloom, however, as apparently they had enjoyed the mild fall as well, until then. We did not see a lot of fall colours anywhere, actually. One of the best meals of our whole trip we had at the restaurant in the refurbished stables at Biltmore. We regretfully didn't have time for the winery, etc.

Tuesday was a lazy day, watching old movies on television at my sister's. It was cold and raining most of the day, and we were accused of bringing the cold weather down from Canada. Technically, we had come up from the south, from North Carolina and Tennessee, right?

We had a hilarious meal with my sister and a couple of my nephews in a Mexican restaurant. As a result, I was a little hung-over the next morning. Wednesday, we did a little exploring and shopping, then fixed supper for my sister and her family. Her youngest, aged 12, was mighty suspicious, worriedly thinking he'd prefer to wait 'till his mom came home...being one who enjoyed a "mostly meat diet". Even after his mom assured us that we followed her recipe for the grilled chicken, he was cautious. Finally, he actually had two pieces of the chicken.

Is it a guy thing? Mike really related to my nephews, talking about "the Simpsons", "the Family Guy", horror movies, etc. They talked late into the night, leaving my sister and I a little lost, thinking maybe we should watch some of that stuff sometime...not our usual cup of tea.

We did get to see my sister's ex and his parents. We even petted the horses at little. It got very dark quickly. As I chatted away to my sister, I reached out to touch her arm, in the dusky light, mistaking my nephew's long blond mop of curls for my sister. He didn't seem to mind.

I was disappointed that there was no tobacco curing in the barn. My sister's ex said something about very few farmers in the area getting quotas to raise tobacco anymore, something about the big tobacco companies and the changing ways of doing business. Where is it grown these days? South America? Who knows. I did love the aroma of the tobacco, the neat, symmetrical rows of giant leaves hanging in the barn, on my previous visits.

On our way home to Canada, Mike and I stopped in Berea. There, we met a lovely woman who sings harmony on a children's cd by her ?sister, Hannah Naiman. The cd's produced by a Canadian musician I had already enjoyed: Kathy-Reid Naiman. I somehow think I have the names and relationships mixed up, but this lovely lady issued us an intivitation to return and stay in their no-longer-officially-in-business bed&breakfast above the store, the Weaver's Bottom. I know both Mike and I intend to take her up on that invitation soon. I hear there is dulcimer music at the Weaver's Bottom sometimes!


Blogger Jeff Pioquinto,SJ said...

nice article and nice blog too. thanks

2:39 a.m.  

Post a Comment

<< Home